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Subject: Another variant for the investment track rss

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Sheldon Smith
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After playing this for the first time, it became apparent there was something quirky about the investment phase. Many people on BGG have also complained about the same problem as it mostly serves to add an extra 15+ minutes of playing time.

The investment phase, as designed, may have sounded good on paper. It theoretically created some tension by limiting the spots to hold only 2 cubes. The decreasing value of VP/$ ratio is perfectly fine. I have no problem with that. The problem is the "tit for tat" nature of the cube placement. So instead of paying $20, you just pay $15 + $5. Or $10 + $10. Or $10 +$5 +$5, etc. The blocking just isn't effective for such a minority of cases where it actually might work. And that's a BIG might!

Simply trading money for VPs (once around as players see fit) to bypass the investment track isn't a bad option. It would save some time and make the game a little more "family friendly". But the missed opportunity for a key element still remains. I pondered about this for quite some time now, and think I may have come up with a good alternate ruleset for the Investment Phase:

RULE #1: PLAYERS NOW HAVE 9 INVESTMENT CUBES INSTEAD OF 12
... This change will make each investment more critical - forcing players not to squander on several small investments, but instead to go for the real spots they are truly after. The previous strategy of blocking players out of the cheaper boxes is now just one of many aspects.

RULE #2: PLAYERS CAN INVEST FOR VP's, BUT IN REVERSE ORDER BY AVAILABLE MONEY
... The player with the least money gets to invest first, and so on. In case of a tie, the player who passed first (having priority on the turn order slot) gets the benefit. On the surface, this may seem like an artificial balancer (a'la Power Grid), but the overall effect isn't near as overpowering.

RULE #3: THERE IS A COST TO SHARE SPOTS WITH OTHER PLAYERS
... This fee will exchange hands from one player to the next. Thematically consider this cost being paid to a "corporation" controlling the external investments. This "corporation", in turn, pays the early investors dividends for increased value, etc.

IN A 4 PLAYER GAME:
1) There is a maximum of 3 cubes per box.
2) 1st placement is free.
3) 2nd placement costs $1 to the player already existing.
4) 3rd placement costs $2 to the 1st player and $1 to the 2nd.
... or $3 to a player that controls both places! (use caution)

IN A 3 PLAYER GAME:
1) There is a maximum of 2 cubes per box.
2) 1st placement is free.
3) 2nd placement costs $2 to the player already existing.

OTHER POINTS TO REMEMBER:

1) Each player has only 9 investment actions. The scarcity of the cubes should create incentives for a player to invest in the "sweeter" VP spots - even if sharing with 1 or 2 players. This alteration alone will not only make the cubes more important but also the investment spots themselves!

2) The investment order in each "round robin" is re-evaluated based on available income. As investment boxes are spent (including sharing costs), it is possible for the investment order to shift.

3) In a 3 player game, income is likely to be more prevalent (depends on available ore). It's one of the reasons this cost was increased from $1 to $2.

4) The only time sharing is free is when it's the same player previously there. That player does not need to have the funds available to pay himself (the "corporation" knows it's the same guy)! Any opponents that are present will need to be paid their due expenses:

YOU+OPP+YOU.....No payment required to yourself. $1 required to opponent.
OPP+YOU+YOU.....$2 required to opponent. No payment required to yourself.
YOU+YOU..............No payment required.

5) Some people complained about a possible runaway leader problem. The 3rd rule above should help mitigate this by creating scenarios where the player w/least money is likely to receive (and the player w/most money is likely to pay). I would not advise a strategy to intentionally run out of money! The game is still about investing in mining factories. The tin, copper, and water will still drive the game and this variant should work regardless if there is a "runaway leader" or not.

6) Having 9 investment cubes allows an average of (2) cubes per round with (1) remaining at the player's discretion. A player may opt to invest only once in an earlier round to have a surplus of cubes later. Or, perhaps spending more cubes to save some money is best due to the costs associated with water. Either way, players will need to manage money vs. the flexibility of investing in higher VP's.

===

This variant will hopefully reinstate the VP track while keeping the heart of the game in tact. Too much monetary weight (or "fiddleyness") would take away from the game - which works quite smoothly to Wallace's credit. As for the "runaway leader" comments, I personally don't think there is an issue as this is normally caused from players not bidding aggressively enough to prevent cheap sales of the attractive regions. Either that or a player was just fortunate with their chosen strategy. This is a very nice title, and I'm happy to have this in my collection. For those of you who like this variant, you may also check out the one I proposed for Louis XIV. Any comments are appreciated.

Happy Gaming!
Sheldon
 
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Eric Dodd
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Sounds pretty good to me. I haven't had any problems with the existing investment rules, but I could see they wouldn't suit everyone.
 
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Scott Nelson
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EyeInSky wrote:

Simply trading money for VPs (once around as players see fit) to bypass the investment track isn't a bad option. It would save some time and make the game a little more "family friendly". But the missed opportunity for a key element still remains. I pondered about this for quite some time now, and think I may have come up with a good alternate ruleset for the Investment Phase:


I like the idea of just buying stock to hold on to. bypassing the investment track sounds good. just pay what you want into a fund for the end game. the money is off limits until end of the game. perhaps for each $5 you pay into it, you can gain 1 point at the end of the game. To "dip" into the fund, you could have a ratio to withdraw: for each 1 point you take back out, you lose $4. cubes to indicate a withdrawal was used could be used. + for cubes not used.
 
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